Black RaceTrac Gas Station Operator Leads Boycott

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Raceway Petroleum, an Atlanta-based company that oversees more than 600 RaceTrac gas stations across the country, faces a national boycott for its apparent racist treatment toward its lone Black station operator.

Eric Banks, owner of the only two Black-owned RaceTrac gas stations, recently received a 90-day notice saying the company had determined Banks and his family were no longer the “right fit” for their Ruston, La. location. According to Banks, the station is situated in a predominately “White Republican neighborhood.” According to a press release issued by Banks, the notice also stated that his station will be offered to someone else, who Banks said is not Black.

Banks and his family have rounded up thousands of signatures of support from loyal white, black and Latino patrons, their Ruston, LA location, once operationally-defunct, has set record sales volumes since the family took it over in 2008. Banks is now trying to orchestrate a national boycott of the chain. His efforts to try to encourage people to buy elsewhere started with a press release posted on the BlackNews.Com websiteAug. 31 .

“This boycott comes as a result of repeated civil rights and unfair business practices against unsuspecting entrepreneurs who unknowingly invest in a system that doesn’t have mutual accountability,” Banks told the AFRO in a recent interview. “When a business owner or entrepreneur voices concerns, [they] are threatened with eviction or even worse ignored all together. However, you better have Raceway’s money in and on time regardless of what support they decide not to give.”

Following his purchase of the station in 2008, Banks said Raceway has overtly implemented obstructions to his business designed to impact or cripple his ability to serve his costumers, even though it ultimately affects the station’s profitability. He explained that the company has failed to repair fuel pumps, repair old air conditioning units and improve faulty credit card systems.

“Operators have to do all of these building maintenance repairs from their profits, basically improving property you can’t take with you,” Banks said. “It’s like changing the oil and putting new tires on a rental car.”

Banks added that the company’s mistreatment toward his station comes despite improvements he’s made to the site since acquiring it two years ago.

“We launched a local marketing campaign with billboards, yard signs and other promotions letting the community know that it’s locally owned by a native son,” Banks said. “We really got involved with the community to earn their trust. There are at least 13 stations before you get to RaceTrac but people come to us because of a personal connection and service they receive.”

He added that he also opened a barbeque restaurant at the location and has employed college students and ex-offenders who need fresh starts but have limited skills.

“I’m a graduate of Grambling State University and the work environment I’ve created fosters further education no matter what your past or present condition is,” Banks said.

Raceway officials have stated that he could pursue ownership of other RaceTrac locations somewhere else at a later date. Still, Banks wants to fight the company’s decision and has vowed to stay put. He and his family have obtained thousands of signatures of support from White, Black and Latino patrons.

“You think you own your business but it equates to modern day ‘share-cropping,’ Banks said. “I take that back, share-cropping was more equitable than Raceway’s ‘not’portunity.”